Remember that whole brouhaha last year about the folks who were suing to block the construction of an Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee? To refresh your memory: The plaintiffs argued, in part, that the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was not protected by the First Amendment, because Islam is a totalitarian ideology and not a religion (the Justice Department disagreed). The stakes were high. As the plaintiff's attorney Joe Brandon Jr. explained, construction of a new house of worship in central Tennessee was part of the Muslim Brotherhood's plan to, eventually, raise the "flag of Sharia" over the White House and subjugate the citizenry. A county judge found this argument unpersuasive, and ruled that construction could continue on the Islamic center.
Brandon, however, promised that very day that Murfreesboro had not seen the last of Joe Brandon Jr. And now, the mosque opponents are back in court, with a fresh set of complaints, 14 new plaintiffs, and a legal argument we'll diplomatically call "novel." Per the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal:
They contend that [plaintiff Kevin] Fisher has standing because he's an African American Christian who'd be discriminated against and subjugated as a second-class citizen under Shariah law and be denied his civil rights; [plaintiff Lisa] Moore has standing because she's a Jewish female who's targeted in a Muslim call to kill Jews in "jihad" in support of Palestine and as a woman whose rights would be subordinate to those of men in Shariah law; and [plaintiff Henry] Golczynski, who lost a son killed while serving in the U.S. Marines in a combat in Fallujah, Iraq, by insurgents pursuing jihad as dictated by Shariah law.
In other words, they're suing Muslims in central Tennessee for future crimes they might commit, because of past actions taken by Muslim insurgents in...Iraq. I see no way this can fail.
But wait, this story gets more interesting. The plaintiffs have also raised concerns about the presence of security cameras at the site of the Islamic center's construction site. Brandon alleged that the cameras violated his right to privacy, because they were able to film his car every time he drove by (one can only imagine the intrusion he endures every time he uses an ATM). The cameras were placed there by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which launched a hate-crime investigation last summer into a case of suspected arson at the mosque site.
About a month ago, we told you about a bill before Missouri's legislature to ban Islamic Shariah law from being enforced in state courts. The proposal, introduced by Republican state Rep. Paul Curtman, drew its language from the sample legislation drafted by David Yerushalmi, an Arizona-based attorney who has previously called for Muslims to be deported. Since the beginning of 2009, two dozen states have considered proposals to ban Shariah, many of which have borrowed Yerushalmi's language.
Yesterday, the Missouri bill passed out of committee in the House, after a heated debate. Per KMOX:
"This bill will go to court and you are wasting your ink on this paper. Because this will not be upheld in court," [Democratic Rep. Jamilah] Nasheed said Tuesday. "You're wasting your time gentleman. You're wasting your time in this body."
Nasheed called on Curtman to provide a list of cases in which international law had been used in American courts but Curtman was unable to provide an example of such a case.
Why should that sound familiar? Because this exact same scenario unfolded in March, when Curtman held a press conference unveil the bill. Here was his response then when a reporter asked for examples:
"I don't have the specifics with me right now but if you go to—the web address kind of escapes my mind right now. Any Google search on international law used in the state courts in the U.S. is going to turn up some cases for you."
When it comes to pot, we've come a long way from the days of "I did not inhale." Fifteen states (plus the District of Columbia) currently permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and according to a recent Pew survey, 45-percent of Americans say they'd support legalizing marijuana outright—a 29-point increase from just two decades ago. Cannabis is fast losing its political stigma, too: The GOP might march in lockstep on abortion and tax cuts, but when it comes to pot, things get a bit hazier. Some of the party's presidential candidates have never touched the stuff; more than a few of them inhaled; one of them even got nabbed in a drug bust. In honor of 4/20, here's a quick guide to where the GOP's 2012 contenders stand on pot:
Mitch Daniels: As a student in Princeton, the Indiana governor was arrested in a police sting that netted two size-12 shoeboxes worth of marijuana, along with LSD and drug paraphernalia. Daniels was cited for pot possession but got off with a $350 fine for "maintaining a common nuisance." He told the Daily Princetonian in 1988 that because of the arrest "any goal I might have had for competing for public office were shot,"and later called the incident an "unfortunate confluence of my wild oats period and America's libertine apogee" (far out!). As governor, Daniels has endorsed alternative sentencing for non-violent offenses like pot possession as a way to reduce prison overcrowding.
Jon Huntsman: In 1978, the US ambassador to China dropped out of high school to play in a prog rock band called "Wizard." As Politico noted, two of his bandmates were "very active in drugs," but Huntsman, who is Mormon, never joined in, and a friend says he "never saw him inhale." Medical marijuana is not legal in Utah, where Huntsman was governor for four years.
Mike Huckabee: He opposes marijuana legalization in any form, but did invite Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong fame) on his TV show to discuss pot policy, for a segment called "Is Pot Ruining Our Kids?" Chong ended the segment by calling Huckabee a "mushroom farmer," because "you keep 'em in the dark and throw [expletive] at them":
Last week we reported on the debate in the Texas state legislature over whether to repeal to the state's ban on "homosexual conduct." It's been eight years since the Supreme Court officially knocked down anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas, but Texas' state legislature has thus far refused to remove the law from the books—in large part because most Texas Republicans still support it. In 2010, the state GOP made defense of the anti-sodomy statute part of its platform, calling for the state to effectively ignore the the law of the land: "We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy." Gov. Rick Perry, meanwhile, dismissed the Lawrence decision as the product of "nine oligarchs in robes" (never mind that it was a 6–3 decision).
But Texas isn't the only state that's still legislating bedroom activity. Fourteen states currently have laws on the books outlawing anal sex between two consenting, unrelated adults—referred to variously as "deviate sexual conduct," "the infamous crime against nature," "sodomy," and "buggery." And it's taken a concerted effort to keep those laws on the books. Since Lawrence, efforts to formally repeal laws in Montana, Kansas, Utah, Louisiana, North Carolina, and, most notably, Texas have all faced resistance before fizzling out in their respective state legislatures. Conservatives in those states know they can't enforce the laws, but by keeping them in the code, they can send a message that homosexuality is officially condemned by the government. So which states still outlaw butt sex? Here's a map:
Tim Pawlenty's tenure as governor of Minnesota was largely devoid of the kind of polarizing episodes that give campaign managers migraines. If anything, the knock on the GOP presidential contender seems to be that, with a few exceptions, he's a little too ordinary. One of those exceptions came in 2003, when the newly elected Republican governor selected Cheri Yecke, a little-known Bush administration veteran, to produce new educational standards for what students should—and shouldn't—learn.
The battle that followed put Pawlenty at the center of a culture war conflagration. Members of Yecke's handpicked standards committees dismissed sharing and cooperation as "socialist" ideas, suggested replacing "We Shall Overcome" with "Dixie" in a unit on protest songs, and advocated downplaying the impact of slavery on the nation's antebellum economy—lest it sour students on the virtues of the free market.